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Commission recap, 01/08/2019

Posted on January 9, 2019 by Public Affairs

New year, new commissioners and officers at Grant PUD

Judy Wilson and Nelson Cox officially took their seats on the Grant PUD Commission Tuesday, after a swearing-in by Grant County Superior Court Judge David Estudillo.

Wilson defeated Commissioner Terry Brewer for the 6-year, District 1 spot, becoming the second woman in the history of Grant PUD to sit on the board. The first was Vera Claussen, from 1983 to 2006.

Cox won the 4-year, District B-At Large spot to replace Commissioner Bob Bernd, who didn’t run for reelection.

Wilson and Cox join the three standing commissioners who assumed new roles on the board for 2019. Commissioner Dale Walker will preside the board as president. Commissioner Tom Flint will be vice-president and Commissioner Larry Schaapman, secretary.  

Commission meetings happen the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at Grant PUD headquarters in Ephrata, 30 C Street SW. The commission occasionally meets at Grant PUD’s Hydro Office Building, near Wanapum Dam. The public is welcome at all commission meetings.

Commissioners also:

— Agreed Grant PUD would cover cost of legal defense for commissioners Tom Flint, Dale Walker and Larry Schaapman, as well as former commissioners Terry Brewer and Bob Bernd, and 10 PUD employees. All are co-defendants in a suit filed against Grant PUD in U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington by nine cryptocurrency-related firms who allege Grant PUD, its commissioners and some employees acted inappropriately in creating and approving a new rate that raises electricity costs for them and other new “evolving industry” customers.

Washington State statute allows public utility districts to indemnify their employees and officers, to ensure they are represented by legal counsel, provided all were acting in good faith and within the scope of their professional duties, Grant PUD General Counsel Mitch Delabarre told commissioners Tuesday. Grant PUD is in the process of filing a response to the suit. (Additional info is available on pages 156-159 of the commission packet)

— Heard a request to approve a three-year, $3.97 million contract with Central Washington Management Group to manage the day-to-day operations at Crescent Bar Recreation Area. The management group has operated the recreation site since 2016.

The contract was drafted and proposed following a comprehensive search by Grant PUD’s Lands and Recreation department seeking bids from qualified companies to manage the site. Request for proposals were sent out early in 2018 asking for any management company interested to respond. Central Washington Management Group was the only organization to provide a qualified response and bid.

The commission plans to vote on the contract during their next scheduled meeting on Jan. 22. (See Lands and Recreation’s full quarterly report on pages 18-38 of staff presentation materials and additional info is available on pages 31-155 of the commission packet.)

— Heard that the CBS news program 60 minutes aired a segment Jan. 6 on the Boston-area based company, Xyleco, which has a large processing plant in Moses Lake. The company’s atypical founder has developed a way to extract sucrose from biomass — a challenge that has stumped scientists for years — to create a host of environmentally safe and healthy products, including a sweetener, a biofuel and a biodegradable plastic. Watch the segment here.

— Heard from Managing Director of Power Production Rich Wallen, who presented the department’s quarterly update. Wallen told commissioners that there is a need to anchor the monolith at Priest Rapids Dam where leaking water was discovered last year. At that time, investigations determined the issue was the result of a disbonded lift joint.

Drainage holes were drilled into the impacted monoliths on the spillway to reduce the pressure in the leaking area. Monitoring equipment was also installed throughout the spillway.

Permitting and other pre-work steps still need completed before the final scope for the project is finalized.

Also the Power Production group will also pilot an electronic timekeeping system. The process should streamline efforts and save time and resources when it comes to the department’s payroll services. (See the full quarterly report on pages 01-16 of staff presentation materials.)

— Heard that an ongoing enterprise risk analysis should, by year’s end, provide insight into how Grant PUD could make better business decisions on capital spending and insurance costs based on the amount of risk it’s willing to assume in areas ranging from major infrastructure damage to liability from a PUD-operated drone. (See the full report on Pages 18-38 of staff presentation materials)

— Approved a change order to a contract with Stantec Consulting Services, Inc, increasing the not-to-exceed contract amount by $2.1 million for a new contract total of $13.75 million. Stantec provides professional engineering services for the dam safety engineering department. The contract dates to March 2011. The company has supported Grant PUD in many seismic analyses, repairs to spillway aprons and analysis of spillway gate structures. The company designed of a new right-bank embankment for Priest Rapids Dam. Construction on the new embankment is expected to begin this year. (Pages 15-19 in commission packet)

— Heard that Grant PUD intends to condemn and purchase for public use 2.9 acres needed to rebuild the right embankment (Yakima County side of the Columbia River) of Priest Rapids Dam for seismic resistance. (Additional info is available on pages 20-25 of the commission packet)

State laws RCW 54.16.020 and 54.16.040 allow Grant PUD to condemn and acquire land and other property rights inside and outside its limits necessary for furnishing itself and its inhabitants or other persons with electrical current… and to build facilities for electric distribution.

The shoreline strip of property is on the route of an old rail line. It currently contains a rustic road. The new embankment must extend across the property to access the bedrock, below. The road would be rerouted around the new construction. Grant PUD has been unable to purchase the property through negotiation. Commissioners took no action.

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